You are not your thoughts

Intentions and notes

The intention of this group is to help people to understand that their responses to events are conditioned and will change depending on various things – a bit like “thoughts are not facts”, but rather than focusing on how thoughts change over time, we explore how our responses to the combination of thoughts, feelings and body sensations lead to different consequences, depending on mood and context. We use this to make the point that we are not ‘fixed’ as we are, but can change – a well-needed message of hope in early recovery!

The suggested meditation is a lengthened SOBER breathing space, to allow for parsing and exploration of thoughts, feelings, body sensations in the O. It’s also a good excuse to practise the format. But it’s not fixed in stone – choose a meditation that suits your group, or you, on that day.

The exercise is based on the one from the ‘Thoughts are not Facts’ group in MBCTdo personalise it for your own group. This version is for the residential treatment centre the course was developed in, but the important thing is to set up the two different moods in the two scenarios, and then end each on exactly the same sentence, like “As you go into ___, a (colleague/peer etc) leaves the room saying they can’t stop. What do you think? How do you feel? What do you notice in your body?”. The flipchart exercise often generates a fair amount of discussion – and there will often be one or more people who say their reaction would be the same both times: this is fine – we’re not trying to force the point – but there are usually at least a few who will point out a few different reactions. If people are a bit ‘stuck’ and not willing to share, it can help to make the point that there are no ‘right’ or ‘expected’ answers, and there are no brownie points for being calm or reasonable. This is about our gut reaction, not how we think we should react.

The final teaching point, about neuroplasticity, helps people to see that they can change. Groups have been interested in the word itself – it can be fun to just put it up on the board and ask who knows what it means, and then break it in two and elicit “neuro” as “nerve” or “brain” – and then “plastic” – giving clues like “plasticine” if needed – brains can change!


  • Download the printable group outline and handout here.

You will also need

  • Blank paper, pens, flipcharts (or something else to lean on)


  • Title and running order of group
  • Columns for feeding back thoughts – feelings – body – consequence
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